Editorial: Age really does matter
“Sometimes, kids, we really do know what’s best for you.
No more child brides: It is legal in New York for children as young as 14 to get married as long as they have permission of parents and a judge. We can’t imagine what would compel a judge to agree to such a marriage, we have serious questions about parents who would give their blessings to such a marriage, and we are absolutely convinced that no 14-year-old has any idea what it means to get married.
Yet Assemblywoman Amy Paulin says between 2000 and 2010, 3,850 minors were married in the state. Eighty-four percent of those children were minor girls who were married to adult men. Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester, wants to put an end to this practice. She has introduced a bill to raise the legal marriage age in New York to 17. That makes a lot of sense.
Child brides especially can find themselves trapped in situations of sexual abuse and domestic violence with limited access to resources such as legal services and domestic violence shelters. They may not even know what help is available to them.
The state has an obligation to protect its youngest citizens from adults making decisions for them that are not necessarily in their best interests. New York is one of three states that allow 14-year-olds to marry with parental and judicial consent. That is exclusive company New York should not be part of.
Treat them as juvenile offenders: In New York and North Carolina 16- and 17-year-olds who wind up in criminal court are automatically prosecuted as adults. Automatically. North Carolina has passed a lot of strange laws lately. New York is better than that.
Democrats in the State Senate want to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18. This is consistent with other age of majority laws and it allows young offenders greater access to rehabilitation and parental and community support that might help prevent future convictions. While it’s true the state’s criminal justice system has protections built in for young offenders, raising the age would add clarity to the system.
Make it 21 to buy tobacco: If Orange County can do it, New York state can do it. Raise the age to buy tobacco to 21. Of all the harmful habits that need to be discouraged, this one is right at the top of the list. The warnings are right on the labels. Studies show that the longer young people delay picking up the habit, the less likely they are to become addicted. It’s a no-brainer.
Hawaii and California have raised the age for tobacco purchase to 21. So has New York City. And, as mentioned, Orange County legislators recently voted to do the same. Similar legislation is under consideration in Ulster and Sullivan counties as well. State legislators should just make it unanimous.
They should also kick in more money for anti-smoking programs, as urged by such groups as the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The combination of more money and an older age of purchase is bound to save lives.”